These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

Stay Sharp Newsletter: 12.3.20

Good morning, Colorado!

It’s the first week of December – back when the pandemic started, no one could have predicted we’d be still in lockdown mode 8 months later – but here we are.

Colorado schools have largely pivoted their reopening plans for remote learning. At A+, we’d like to acknowledge the dedication of parents, students, and teachers during this time. A COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon, and we’re hopeful that learning can begin in-person as soon as it’s safe for all students and teachers.

As we enter remote learning again, we want to invite you to revisit our COVID-19 Learning Loss report. In October, we released an analysis based on summer slide data about what education disruptions in 2020 may mean for student outcomes.

Based on this research, we know three things: 

1.Students who experience low socioeconomic opportunities are exposed to summer slide more than their peers.

2.Pre-K and elementary school students tend to experience the greatest learning losses, especially when combined with low socioeconomic opportunities.

3.Students from historically targeted and oppressed groups experience greater opportunity gaps related to summer slide compared to their peers.

View our report to see graphs of forecasts for learning loss for reading, math, and more.

P.s. it’s also a big week for Colorado’s nonprofits. We hope you’ll support organizations that support students next week on Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday. See a list of education nonprofits you can donate to here.

Our weekly updates below…

Community Voices 

DPS interim superintendent announced

Yesterday evening, it was announced that Dwight Jones will step in as DPS interim superintendent. The decision was announced after the DPS Board of Education work session and an executive session.

Dwight is currently DPS’ Senior Deputy Superintendent for Equity, and previously was the Superintendent in Clark County (Las Vegas), the nation’s 5th largest school district. He was Colorado’s Commissioner of Education from 2007 to 2010 before he went to Nevada.

A+ Colorado is sad to see Susana Cordova leave DPS. In November, we sent out a statement about the news, thanking her for her 31+ years serving Denver’s students.

However, we are grateful to have such a competent, experienced educator like Jones to step into the gap while the district is searching for her long-term replacement. He has a strong track record of being a proven leader, who drives school improvement with a focus on students.

BoardHawk spoke with several people who know Jones and have worked with him in Colorado and published a few takeaways.

•”He is a strong manager and leader. During his tenure as education commissioner, he restored the Colorado Department of Education’s reputation after several years of turmoil and missteps. He did this in part by employing decision-making based on data. This extended to school and teacher quality, among other areas.”

•”Jones has always excelled at surrounding himself with high-functioning teams composed of smart, accomplished people. As interim, he will be in more of a caretaker role, but he is a good evaluator of talent.”

According to the Denver Post, he is expected to begin his interim term on Jan. 1. Superintendent Susana Cordova will serve DPS until the end of the year.

Read DPS’ official statement about the interim decision.

“He is an equity-driven leader with a broad and deep understanding of the complexities and challenges we’ll be facing over the next six months. He has been a valued and integral member of the Senior Leadership Team throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Dwight understands and is committed to our priorities, values and relationships as he was a close collaborator with the Board of Education as we developed the Crisis Priorities that serve as our roadmap during the pandemic. Given his experience, he understands the depth of the critical decisions that have to be made in the coming weeks to help plan for a return to in-person learning for January, if our health conditions allow.

Dwight has shared that he does not intend to seek the role beyond his time as interim, and the Board will be conducting a national search.”

Opinion: Learning from the 2020 election how to teach democracy // Colorado Sun

Van Schoales, A+ president, and Mary Willson, A+ communication director, published an article with the Colorado Sun last week about the importance of teaching democracy in Colorado schools, related to the historic 2020 election. 

“A source of hope is the remarkable increase in young voter turnout in this election along with the growing activism by students in taking ownership over their own education, even with all of the challenges that 2020 has brought.

In Denver, a group of students at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College recently led a year-long initiative in creating a historic resolution that ‘weaves the narratives and knowledge of Black, indigenous, Latino and other communities of color into every part of the district’s curriculum,’ known as the Know Justice Know Peace resolution.

In late October, the Denver Public Schools board unanimously approved the student-led resolution. Thousands of high school students will be learning through lessons that are anti-racist and elevate the voices of people of color because of this leadership.

So, what can we do to bring more of us together around building a greater American democracy?

In addition to the importance of elevating the voices and ideas of young people, here are three principles for schools to develop critical thinking habits and knowledge for a healthy democracy.”

Read the article via the Colorado Sun here

Op-Ed: School Board Lost a Gifted Superintendent in Susana Cordova // Westword

Last week, 14 women who formally served on the DPS school board put out a shared statement about outgoing DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova. Below is an excerpt, read the full article here

On November 13, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova announced her resignation. The district lost a highly gifted and effective superintendent with an extraordinary record of accomplishment. And responsibility for this loss can be attributed in large measure to school-board members who created a hostile work environment. You simply have to watch a DPS Board of Education meeting to see the way the superintendent is interrupted, talked over, and routinely discounted by board members. In community meetings, through their political campaigns, and on social media, some board members were painfully disrespectful, undermined her leadership, and treated her in a way that was neither fair nor democratic.

Once a person has served on the DPS board, they typically believe in giving the current school board as much grace as possible. We know that regardless of the changing political views on education, serving on a school board takes an extraordinary toll on an individual, both personally and professionally. It is extremely hard to understand that from the outside. Each of us had to make tough decisions that were as hard as ones the current board is facing. To think otherwise shows you don’t understand the history of education in this city or the country.

Read more here. 

African Leadership Group looking for volunteers to support online tutoring and pod // ALG

Denver’s African Leadership Group (ALG), which supports and advocates for African immigrant communities in Colorado, is looking for volunteers to work with their students in online tutoring and support their learning pod.

ALG’s pod is described as an “innovative school that strives to meet the needs of every kid. Kids from first to ninth grade come in every day from Aurora and Denver. They are only asking for assistance, for someone to be there and help them through the internet and technology issues, and with their homework.”

Learn more and contact ALG here to support.

Colorado Gives Day

Thank you for your interest in donating to A+ Colorado on Colorado Gives Day. A+ exists to ensure a child’s zip code no longer dictates his or her educational opportunity. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that every student in Colorado receives an excellent public education. Here is A+’s Colorado Gives Day page. 

Please also consider donating to organizations led by black, Indigenous, and people of color, directly serving students, including (but not limited to) Faith BridgeTransform Education NowYAASPA, African Leadership GroupColorado Immigrants Rights Coalition, and more.

ICYMI: Why is school finance important? Why and how should families and community get involved? // A+ Community Conversations

Before Thanksgiving, we put out this school finance video with experts on the topic. Didn’t get a chance to watch? Catch up at the link below.

A+ Colorado spoke with Leslie from Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC) and Prateek from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) to learn about school finance.


Leslie and Prateek discuss the 20+ year old formula and other layers that contribute to school funding and budgeting.

CCC and DFER are actively working towards equitable school funding in Colorado. To learn more about their work and or get involved in school finance, you can visit their websites: CCC & DFER or contact them directly via email: Leslie & Prateek.

Watch here.

We want to hear from you

What do you want to see A+ engage with surrounding the DPS search for a new superintendent?

Do you want to talk with A+ Colorado about Susana’s tenure and next steps? Reply to this email, or email A+ President, Van Schoales at Interested in speaking about A+’s research on DPS? Email Director of Communication at

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Subscribe here! We’d love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.